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Also by BARBARA A. HOLLAND 
POETRY 

After Hours in Bohemia (2020) 

Autumn Numbers (1980) 

Autumn Wizard (1973) 

The Beckoning Eye (2019) 

Burrs (1977, 1981) 

Collected Poems Volume 1 (1980) 

Crises of Rejuvenation (1973-75, 1985) 

The Edwardian Poems & The Queen of Swords (1991) 
Lens, Light & Sound (1968) 

Medusa: The Lost First Chapbook (2019) 
Melusine Discovered (1975) 

On This High Hill (1974) 

Penny Arcana (n.d.) 

Running Backwards (1983) 

Out of Avernus (2019) 

The Secret Agent (2019) 

Selected Poems, Volume 1 (2020) 

The Shipping on the Styx (2019) 

You Could Die Laughing (1975) 


















Copyright © 1974, 1975, 1986, 2020 by The Poet’s Press 
All Rights Reserved 

Originally published in several 
volumes as Crises of Rejuvenation. 


This is the 272nd publication of 
THE POET’S PRESS 

2209 Murray Ave #3 / Pittsburgh, PA 15217 
www.poetspress.org 


Ver 1.3 


CONTENTS 


FOREWORD 11 

CRISES OF REJUVENATION, VOLUME 1 (1974) 
Personal Values 23 
Crises of Rejuvenation 25 
Rhetorician! 26 
Good Morning 27 
Rags of Omen 28 
An Abominable Breakfast 29 
Louder Than Life 30 
A Street Throughout The Years 32 
Intimations 34 
Not Nice At All! 35 
Vernal Equinox 37 
My Old Friend, The Sorcerer 39 
Who Goes First? 41 
The Best of All Possible Worlds 43 
Rag Picker 44 
The Inevitable Knife 45 
High On Three Cups of Tea 46 
As One Possessed 47 
Autumn Wizard 48 
Midnight On The Esplanade 51 
The Breaker 53 

Close Call for The Secret Agent 54 
The Retractable Booby-Trap 56 
Not Now, Wanderer 57 
Take Flight to Montreal! 60 
The Itinerant Window 62 
Who Says 64 



CRISES OF REJUVENATION, VOLUME 2 (1975) 
Before the Beginning 67 
A Covering Letter 68 
Entrance Of Origins 69 
Apports 70 

Not Fungus, No, Never That! 71 
Schuylkill Weather 72 
Imagine Your Guitar 73 
The Raucous Hour 74 
The Evening Fish 75 
So There, Descartes! 76 
Subway Exit 77 
Suspense for Days 78 
Strike Two 80 

The Sound of The Tinkling Cymbals 81 

Sustained Enchantment 82 

In The Cause of Justice 83 

The Iron Urge 85 

A Cup of Coffee 86 

The Blight 87 

Some Day A Sudden Craving 89 
A Tryst Beneath a Bird House 91 
Home Can Be Anywhere 92 
The Brain Walks Close Behind 94 
Ancestral Vision 95 
This Certain Quaintness 96 
The Summer’s Final Season 98 
Keeping the Window Closed 100 
Shadow Faker 101 
The Capricorn Tapestry 102 
The Lodger 104 
Aquila 105 


CRISES OF REJUVENATION, 1986 ADDENDUM 
Companions 109 
The Sorcerer’s Moon 110 
Sky Hanger 111 
Advance Upon Canaan 112 
Leavings 114 
The Listening Room 117 
Where Will It All Begin? 118 
The Watcher Awakened 119 
Cat’s Cradle 120 
Water Baby 121 
My Cousin In Vertical Orbit 122 
You Never Notice 123 
Optical Illusions 124 
Enough Of This 125 
Bad Company 126 
It Must Be A Joke 127 
Windfall 128 
Down Meadow Slope 129 
End Of An Era 130 
Southward Running 132 
Vandalism 133 
Another Season 134 

ABOUT THE POET 135 


ABOUT THIS BOOK 


138 




SELECTED POEMS 
VOLUME 2 





FOREWORD 


This publication is the second of two volumes of the selected 
works of America’s great imaginative poet, Barbara A. Holland 
(1925-1988). It follows upon a 230-page first volume published in early 
2020, based on a 1980 production ambitiously titled Collected Poems. 
The present volume is dedicated entirely to Holland’s cycle of poems 
centered around the paintings of Rene Magritte, originally titled Crises 
of Rejuvenation and first published in two volumes in 1974 and 1975, 
and then expanded in 1986. 

The two volumes of Selected Poems should be regarded as the 
poet’s personal choice, rescued from chapbooks and magazines, of 
the poems she regarded as her best, in their final form. Some 
punctuation changes (commas and hyphens) have been added, in 
keeping with my overall editing of the Barbara A. Holland papers that 
became available in 2019. 

Another new book, After Hours in Bohemia, will collect the 
remaining manuscript poems and poems recovered and recon¬ 
structed from notebooks, as well as several critical reviews and 
articles about her and her work. 

The original 1974 and 1975 chapbooks of this poetic cycle did not 
contain specific references to Magritte other than the title poem, and 
two of my own cover designs that emulated Magritte in concept. The 
first cover showed an apple setting over a seascape, clearly a tribute 
to the Belgian surrealist. The second volume had a line drawing of a 
rose extracting its color from a blood transfusion, an illustration of 
one of the poems, “Someday A Sudden Craving.” 

In retrospect, I think we were remiss in not making the Magritte 
connection more clear. Holland’s live audiences knew the poems were 
provoked by Magritte because she told them so. Readers who have 
never seen Magritte’s paintings, though, have still enjoyed these 
poems, but experienced together with a perusal of the painter’s work, 
the works take on extra resonance. The reader gains a common visual 
and epistemological experience with the poet and can thus participate 
more readily in her flights of fancy. In my own case, I found that the 
paintings inspired me to render my own impressions, reactions and 



interpretations into poems, too. Sometimes, Barbara and I wrote 
poetic dialogues with the mysterious painter’s world as our shared 
take-off point. 

Happily, with the passing of much of Magritte’s paintings into the 
public domain (at least for scholarly and derived works such as this 
one), we can now present the poems with small images of the paintings. 

What is “surrealistic” in the context of these poems? Magritte’s 
work differs substantially from what I shall call, for lack of a better 
term, the work of “hard” Surrealists. He poked fun at manifestos and 
nearly always rooted his paintings in reality. Where some Surrealist 
landscapes often look completely alien or even nonrepresentational, 
Magritte depicts the strange and inexplicable in a realistic, painterly 
manner, centering on the cityscapes and landscapes of Paris, Belgium, 
the European forest and countryside, mountains and seashore. Rows 
of town houses line up in tedious splendor, their windows reflecting 
or capturing proper clouds. Magritte’s sea and sky are realistic, except 
when intruded upon by interloping impossibilities. 

In “The Empire of Light,” for example, the artist presents a house, 
a garden wall, some trees and a street lamp. The lamp casts light and 
shadows out over the lawn and it is reflected in a pond. All is dark 
under the trees. An ordinary, realistic scene, depicted with amazing 
subtlety in the gradations of tones of light on the underside of the 
trees. 

The element of the “surreal” enters when we look at the sky above 
the scene. It is bright, noontime blue. The scene below is night, above 
is high noon. The pond, of course, should be blue as the sky, and the 
trees should be lit from all directions by refracted sunlight. Magritte 
blends the underlit trees and their foliage into a silhouette against the 
blue sky, a masterpiece of illusion. The observer knows that some¬ 
thing is “mysterious” or “wrong” about the painting, but its photo¬ 
graphic realism fools the eye. 

Other Magritte paintings are more blatantly Surrealist. An eye 
stares out of the center of a slice of ham. Three moons perch in the 
limbs of a tree. An eagle hatches out of a jagged mountain peak. 
Household objects and a lion litter the edge of a road. In works such 
as these, the artist moves beyond the fasntastic and into the inexpli¬ 
cable. 

Magritte admired mystery stories about secret agents, and was 
fascinated with the works of Edgar Allan Poe. He created a visual world 
in which mysterious objects, such as little round sleigh bells, French 


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horns, lions, and bowler hats, appear again and again on beaches, in 
forests, or in city streets. Or, a familiar room and its objects are 
petrified, or a sky is rendered as a stack of cubes. 

This combination of realism and the mysterious is the essence of 
Magritte. The same factor makes his work much more accessible to 
average viewers. There is a special appeal for poets, who are always 
looking for ways to turn the everyday into the mysterious. 

I hasten to add that Barbara Holland is not a literary Surrealist. 
There is no randomness, no impulse toward Dadaist fist-shaking. The 
ambiguities of meaning, the shattering of form and syntax that run 
rampant in some experimental and visual poems, have no place in 
her writing. Like Magritte with his photographic style, Barbara writes 
in plain English, often in a narrative that could easily be read as prose 
to the unwitting listener with poem-phobia. 

Her voice speaks in complete sentences, tightly packed clauses, 
and unambiguous meaning. If they seem at times like run-ons, they 
clarify themselves on repeat readings, like a puzzle solved. 

The world of Barbara Holland, then, is the real one, that of a 
solitary literary woman living in Greenwich Village in its last Bohe¬ 
mian years. The twist is simply that impossible things happen there. 
Roses drink bottled blood, tree stumps sprout human ears, unaccom¬ 
panied crutches stride the avenues, and a knife appears in the poet’s 
back as a permanent ornament. She writes with clarity and wit about 
each brand of impossibility. There is also the passivity of the 
spectator/voyeur in most of her poems: the poet seldom acts, but is 
acted upon. She is an esthetic pin-cushion. Reality annoys her more 
often than it delights her, and she is quick to tell you that. 

How much Magritte does the reader have to know to appreciate 
these poems? The answer is — surprisingly little. Browse through a 
book of the artist’s work to get a feel for the visual world, and you are 
ready for most of what Holland deals out. In fact, most of these poems 
are not specifically about any particular painting. Magritte merely 
provides the template that the poet superimposes over her New York 
turf. She sees her urban setting as if through the canvasses of the 
master, and tells us what she sees. 

This raises the final critical question about whether this poetic 
cycle is ekphrastic poetry, that is, poetry whose purpose is to 
describe art or relate the narrative that a visual work of art contains 
or implies. Only a few of the poems here, such as “Tryst Beneath A 
Bird House,” can be said to explicate a specific painting. Rather, these 


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poems inhabit the world-view, sense of life, and physical laws of an 
alternate universe. Her poetry is more aligned with weird fiction than 
with the sodden confessional personal poem of the 1960s. 

I interviewed Holland about the poems in Crises of Rejuvenation 
when we were preparing the 1986 edition. Following are the notes we 
made about some of the poems that do spring from actual Magritte 
paintings, presented here for those who might take pleasure in 
reading the poems against the paintings. Some other passing thoughts 
about the inspiration or intention of certain poems also emerged from 
the conversations, and are they repeated here so that the reader may 
benefit from the context. If I veer between the formal and informal in 
talking about this poems, it is because we were good friends during 
all those years, so I can step down from the editor’s chair here and 
there and call her simply “Barbara.” 

PERSONAL VALUES was provoked by the painting “Les Valeurs 
personnelles” (1952) which depicts a room full of oversize objects. A 
comb and brush and a bar of soap overwhelm a normal sized bed, 
while the room's wallpaper depicts a Surreal sky and clouds. Another 
poem, THE LODGER, also uses this painting as a taking-off-point. 

A STREET THROUGHOUT THE YEARS depicts a repeated dream 
that never attains a conclusion, a door that is never reached. 

VERNAL EQUINOX introduces the concept of petrified objects, 
people and even emotions that Holland has adopted from Magritte. 
Paintings by Magritte that come to mind are “The Song of the Violet” 
and “Souvenir de Voyage III.” 

In INTIMATIONS and, later, THE EVENING FISH, sky and ocean are 
interchanged at dusk wherein fish fly among the television antennae 
and chimney tops. You have to see the sunsets over Greenwich Village 
through a succession of seasons to appreciate how true this is to the 
neighborhood where we all lived. 

The dinner date in AN ABOMINABLE BREAKFAST, the poet tells 
me, is like one of Magritte’s petrified bourgeoisie. 

When Holland empathized with a nephew in a cast for a broken 
leg, she began fantasizing about a pair of unpeopled crutches, perhaps 
the most bizarre automata ever. LOUDER THAN LIFE depicts their 
adventures. 

The title poem, CRISES OF REJUVENATION, refers to several key 
Magritte paintings. The poem centers, though, on a series of perverse 
paintings in which Magritte painted objects and then put incorrect 
names under them, such as a tumbler of water called “l’Orage (Storm)” 


<14> 


in “La Clef des Songes (The Key of Dreams).” There is also the famous 
painting, “Cecf n’est pas une pipe (This is not a pipe).” 

Holland wondered about the origin of the cubed sky shown in 
various Magritte canvases, and here is her theory, made by a sorcerer 
in MY OLD FRIEND, THE SORCERER. 

WHO GOES FIRST is a literal reaction to the painting titled 
“Ready-Made Bouquet.” 

THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS was provoked by one of 
the most haunting paintings of the 20th Century, Magritte’s “Castle of 
the Pyrenees,” which depicts a castle atop an egg-shaped rock that 
floats serenely over a seascape. Epics could be written about that one 
painting. 

THE INEVITABLE KNIFE is a masterpiece of paranoia fit for one of 
Magritte’s trailed secret agents. When Barbara read this, she twisted 
about, looking for the knife in her back which she could neither see 
nor extricate. 

Those seeking to explain poets’ visions as the result of drugs will 
be only slightly satisfied to see that Holland can transform bleak Sixth 
Avenue into a circus after having only three cups of my infamous 
Lapsang Souchong tea, in HIGH ON THREE CUPS OF TEA The poem 
contains one of the most wondrous streaks of alliteration in all of her 
writing. 

The eagle hatching out of the mountain in “The Domain of 
Arnheim” — itself a mysterious reference to a story by Poe — 
provoked several poems, including AS ONE POSSESSED and, later, 
THE IRON URGE and AQUILA. 

Sun, moon and stars occasionally get stuck in window panes, 
mirrors or treetops in Magritte paintings. This happens in the poem, 
THE BREAKER. Paintings with this imagery include “September 16th” 
and “The Banquet.” 

AUTUMN WIZARD is dedicated to Ray Bradbury, the undisputed 
Lord of October. The “indigo, coral and turquoise” leaves might belong 
in a Magritte forest. 

MIDNIGHT ON THE ESPLANADE is a straightforward explication 
of the painting “Le Mai du Pays.” 

The poet says of CLOSE CALL FOR THE SECRET AGENT that it 
represents her pursuit of Magritte’s personality. “I wanted to find out 
what kind of man he was, and never did figure it out,” she recalled. 
The poem evokes the many pictures of bowler-hatted men who stare 
straight at you with mask-like, inscrutable faces. Magritte’s paintings, 


<15> 


“The Menaced Assassin” and “The Month of Harvest” come to mind. 
(Holland left an entire book manuscript titled The Secret Agent in 
her unpublished papers, and in those inter-related poems an unseen 
Secret Agent is an unseen player.) 

NOT NOW, WANDERER is contemporaneous with the Magritte 
poems and certainly shares its mountainous landscapes with those 
of the painter. But this poem has its origins in Wagner’s Ring Cycle, 
the paganized operatic setting of the Nibelungenlied, in the figure of 
Wotan with his single eye, staff and floppy hat. The Wanderer is the 
name by which the Father of the Gods chooses to be known in the 
mysterious episode where he tries to block Siegfried’s passage. The 
“messenger ravens’’will be recognized by Wagnerians as the twin birds 
that signal the imminent assassination of Siegfried. This poem is a 
passionate song of hopeless, lost, ineluctable passion. It reduces 
audiences to stunned, purged silence, so much so that it can be almost 
unendurable to hear another poem for some long moments after¬ 
wards. To hear Barbara read this poem when she was at her peak was 
one of the great thrills of my poetic life. 

TAKE FLIGHT TO MONTREAL! is a personal favorite. Barbara 
wrote this after a dinner at The Poet’s Press loft during which I 
playfully hinted that I would install some multi-tentacled Lovecraftian 
monster to protect the premises against burglars. My poem in reply 
to this one appears side by side with her original in the anthology, 
May Eve. 

Magritte playfully has window panes retain an exterior image even 
when shattered and leaning against a wall. Here, in THE ITINERANT 
WINDOW, Holland has an entire window moving about and winding 
up in the boughs of a tree. The images trapped in glass also figure in 
A CUP OF COFFEE. 

BEFORE THE BEGINNING is a seascape, very reminiscent of 
Magritte’s “Le temps menagant (Threatening weather).” 

Rocks from Magritte’s petrified world take on a practical use to 
punish editors who have the temerity to reject poetry manuscripts 
in A COVERING LETTER. 

In ENTRANCE OF ORIGINS a face turns into rock, somewhat 
reminiscent of Magritte’s petrified world, but also reminding one of 
some of Dali’s images. 

APPORTS evokes a French medieval fortress as an immutable 
object whose ephemeral shadows move like gypsies from place to 
place. An enigmatic poem. 


<16> 


The origin of NOT FUNGUS, NO, NEVER THAT! says the poet, “was 
put in my head by the way fungus looks: noses, chins, ears.” 

SCHUYLKILL WEATHER, by its title, betrays the poet’s Philadel¬ 
phia origins. 

I IMAGINE YOUR GUITAR was inspired by a display of heat 
lightning. 

The bowler-hatted men in black from Magritte paintings fit in well 
with the 1960s and 1970s politics of Greenwich Village, where FBI 
informants posed as radicals, brownstones exploded, and hippies 
and police battled in public parks. In SO THERE, DESCARTES! the 
Secret Agent vanishes into thin air — bit by bit. In LEAVINGS, pieces 
of him linger. The Secret Agent — the man whose face you never quite 
see, is also the “you” in SUSTAINED ENCHANTMENT. We suspect, too, 
that the man always a few steps ahead in SUBWAY EXIT, and YOU 
NEVER NOTICE, and THE BRAIN WALKS CLOSE BEHIND may be one 
and the same. 

Magritte used umbrellas in some of his work, such as the painting 
of an opened umbrella with a glass of water on top. In SUSPENSE FOR 
DAYS a church steeple threatens to open like a parasol. 

Mirrors that reflect the wrong images are another familiar Magritte 
device, in such canvasses as “Les liaisons dangereuses” and “La 
Reproduction Interdite.” In STRIKE TWO, the poet has done with 
Surreal mirrors and then goes into a frenzy over distorted echoes. A 
tinge of the same marvelous sense of paranoia infects this poem as 
in THE INEVITABLE KNIFE Later, in KEEPING THE WINDOW CLOSED, 
the moon and some stars get caught in the parlor mirror. Not “billions 
and billions” of them, as Carl Sagan would say, but just a few. 

When the president of an eminent poetry society just happened 
to win that group’s $700 prize for “best poem” with an ode “On the 
Opening of a Walnut,” Barbara was provoked to write her nutty lyric. 

In “The Therapeutist” and a series of related paintings Magritte 
shows a man who has an oversized bird cage as a torso, which 
provoked the marvelous poem, A TRYST BENEATH THE BIRDHOUSE. 

THE BLIGHT is a character study of a very real character, a 
small-time con artist who temporarily infected the New York poetry 
scene in the early to mid-1970s. His hyperactive behavior and 
grandiose schemes are parodied in this poem. 

HOME CAN BE ANYWHERE was provoked by a bus ride through 
part of Staten Island. 


<17> 


SOME DAY A SUDDEN CRAVING is a true story of a hospital 
worker who had a novel gardening tip. 

In ANCESTRAL VISION an old face suddenly takes on a boyish 
look and the poet wonders which persona is the real one. 

Dr. Freud gets his comeuppance in THIS CERTAIN QUAINTNESS. 
You had to be around in the 1960s and 1970s to see what a grip Freud’s 
ideas still had. Psychiatrists made a lot of money keeping neurotic, 
well-heeled patients in a state of total emotional dependence. And it 
was always about Mommy and Daddy and those repressed desires. 

THE SUMMER’S FINAL SEASON concerns a dark cloud hanging 
over a peaceful village. Everyone pretends it doesn’t exist. Although 
the poet did not intend it, there is something about this poem that, 
to me, represents the whole of modern Cold War anxiety. The cloud 
hangs there, waiting to “liberate its cargo” which would “plummet like 
a stone on target.” For a generation born under the cloud of a nuclear 
threat, this poem is an unwitting representation of how life just “goes 
on.” 

The real-life paranoia of President Nixon is portrayed in THE 
CAPRICORN TAPESTRY. Barbara recalled a newscast in which Secret 
Service agents had scurried on Nixon's orders to disarm a bomb on 
the White House lawn, which turned out to be an abandoned golf ball. 
If Nixon was made edgy by protesters on the sidewalk, the poet 
wonders, how would he feel about nosy astronauts staring down at 
him from the moon? 

THE LISTENING ROOM is based on the painting of the same title 
— possibly one of Magritte’s more familiar ones. A large green apple 
fills almost all the available space in a room. Barbara sent this to me 
just after I had sent her my ferocious supernatural poem, “Fete.” “A 
black wedding?” she replied, enclosing this poem and adding, “Well, 
here’s a green divorce!” 

THE SORCERER’S MOON is a montage of different images from 
Magritte, which the reader will recognize from other poems, if not 
from their constituent paintings. 

COMPANIONS, with its bare toes bursting out of a pair of boots 
is from Magritte’s “The Red Model.” 


This second volume of Barbara A. Holland’s Selected Poems 
includes all the poems in the two original publications of 1974 and 
1975 as Crises of Rejuvenation, and 21 additional poems which the 


<18> 


poet and I selected for an expanded single-volume edition in 1986, It 
was re-issued in 2005-2006 as a 30 th anniversary edition. The inter¬ 
views that were the basis of the foregoing notes are based on 
interviews in Providence, Rhode Island in 1985. 

Not all the poems added in 1986 were ekphrastic poems con¬ 
cerned with Magritte’s imagery. We selected others that were written 
contemporaneously with Crises of Rejuvenation, products of the same 
time and same world view. 

For that 1986 printing I summed up how these poems had affected 
me personally, and why I thought they should be read: “These poems 
have taken nest in my own consciousness, as they will in yours. You 
will think of them, of their strange and beautiful images. 

“Even better, you will find that certain phrases become a part of 
your own vocabulary. You may even find that your perceptions are 
just slightly altered so that you, too, sit down and write about how 
the real and unreal collide and invade one another’s territory all 
around you. 

“The answer to the book’s cryptic title lies therein, doesn’t it? We 
grow old and die by seeing things only in the conventional way. We 
are rejuvenated when we can see things through another sense of 
dimension, when we can use our imagination so that ‘names and the 
objects which they had previously owned divorce for other partners’.” 


— Brett Rutherford 
Pittsburgh, March 29, 2020 


<19> 




CRISES OF REJUVENATION 
VOLUME 1 
1974 





Bent to right angles, the living sky 

hurries its continuity of clouds 
across the room; 

Around it, alongside of it, 
dreams of the fever of stars. 

If the mirror is honest, 
somewhere in the neverland behind 
the observer a starched gauntness 

of window intimates 

that outer other, 

more living, more desperate, 

more spontaneous and daring 

than the wind course 

of wallpaper recently bent and organized 


<23> 





to house disproportionate tidiness 
in domesticated freedom 
and raising its regimented altitudes 
against the greater of the two unknowns 


< 24 > 



CRISES OF REJUVENATION 


lam repatriated in a moment of panic. 
These are the privileged 
moments that transcend mediocrity. 

—Rene Magritte 


I am seized 

from behind by my homeland 

in a moment of panic, 

when places are exchanged 
and the rhythms of life reversed, 
when names and the objects 
which they had previously owned, 
divorce for other partners, 

when wood rasps granular like stone, 
and rocks river grain 
throughout their lasting stolidity; 

in a grasp 

of gravity when rain hangs 
suspended like tons of hair, 


< 25 > 





loosed by dried clouds 
upon deterioration, 

or when the third-story window 

of a mansion shudders implacable blue 

from untenanted rooms 

and a subsequent low rumble 
escapes down the garden 
beneath the grass. 

These are the privileged 

moments, transfiguring size and enlarging 

color to accommodate sky 

and ocean. These are the moments 

that transcend mediocrity 


RHETORICIAN! 


One morning, 

just about this time last summer, he 

died, conclusively 

and clinched his argument. 


< 26 > 



GOOD MORNING 


You knocked me out 
this morning; with a flash 
fist you cracked my skull 
wide open to the sunlight, 

then edged yourself 
from between its parted 
halves, disheveled 
by your laughter 
at the wince I was. 

I crawled down 
into the reassurance 
of the coffee pot 

from which you poured my murk 
through your reflection. 


< 27 > 



RAGS OF OMEN 


A warm, firm grasp 
of your hand on a night 
when the winter 
dances on the rim 
of your ear. 

A cousin grip assuring 
your shoulder of gemmed 
realities yet 
to come. 

End of hair 
against your cheek 
as scarcely tangible 
and almost as unendurably 
intimate as breath. 

Rags of ambiguous 
omen streaming 
from a stranger’s hedge. 


< 28 > 



AN ABOMINABLE BREAKFAST 


My eyes plough my minestrone, 

seeking an alternative 

to being bruised against your iron face. 

Your scowl hangs 

like a soaked and dripping sheet, 

grudgingly releasing 

filthy water which dents the table top 

before it turns to scum. 

You hoard your thunder 

by the ton. No drop leaf was ever 

intended to support such silences as yours 

which squats where wood is weakest, 

sniffing at our barrier 

of boredom. Passionate boredom, 

like a sweater which a dozen years 
has colonized throughout with burrs, 
stiffens until the first growth 
of conversation comes up stubble; 

at each glimpse recapturing the long 
horse face of obstinate delusion, 
and hisses like a useless faucet. 


< 29 > 



LOUDER THAN LIFE 


Staking out stance 
and taking, 

with their cushioned hoists, 
curved segments of transportation, 
by nailing their claim 
to sidewalks 

for no one’s weight, 
this partnership 

of crutches, now adopted siblings 
to no discernible 
leg, acquires and abandons 
distances 

to no one’s aid 

in any unusual hour past midnight 
in deserted streets. 

There 

past the filling station 
There, 

stabbing their raucous round 
of corner, two simultaneous uprights 
in double tilt of giant steps, 

as if a man between them 

were flung across a now, reached inward 

from the future, 

which is instantly obsolete; 

were flung again, 

but no one hangs between them. 

The crutches stab their stride 
then swing, 
then stab again. 


< 30 > 



Suppose a man, 
despite the absence 
of any human agency! 

These crutches are out 

on their own, this time by whim impelled 

through any neighborhood of night. 

Suppose 

a grip on handholds. 

These crutches 
are synchronized, louder 
than life 
and faster. 


< 31 > 


A STREET THROUGHOUT THE YEARS 


This street 

is always with me 
without change. 

Never has anyone been visible 
on sidewalks 

drained by the moonlight of their breathing. 

Row on row of brownstone shafts 
are lifted 
in unison, 

each slotted 
with a glass that takes 
outside and throws it back 

rather than announcing inside. 

Glints experiment with paneling, 
burn knobs, 
awaking nothing. 

The doors cringe in the depths of alcoves, 
lurked like cowled figures 

in single blocks, self hugged 
to shrink 

within a narrowness, 
pledged to be vigilant 
with eyes alone. 

The street tenses, 
in response to waiting. 

Always ahead 
there is that door, 
that molding 

half transformed into a column 


< 32 > 



which cannot hide 
a luminescence bright enough to be 
a faint glow 

existing 

this side of suggestion. 

As I watch, it grows, 
intensifies sufficiently 

to bathe the steps, but suddenly 
I find myself elsewhere, 
the street gone. 

The next time I am here 
I am a half block off, 
approaching. 


< 33 > 


INTIMATIONS 


Not as the disc face 

of the incessant sky, caught in the curve 
of horns that harbor the miracle 
of harp strings, would I deny you 
the vast moor of my love. 

Nor as the tremor, 

still rumoring the long gong of countless 
acquaintances, can I dip less 
of you from air than sound 
and strain you through 
the skeletons of leaves, 

for now the twilight whinnies 
and the stars creak on their axes, 
now the fish, feathered through 
from spine within 

to tufted scales without, 
swims among chimneys, 
a victim for ventilators. 

It is a long swallow 

in the throat of the past 
that gags on the lie of distance 
and your absence. A mirror swings 
between that serpent’s eyes, 
flinging some little of my face 
before you, to warn you that a keyhole 
may capture your timelessness 
and guard it for my homeward passage. 


< 34 > 



NOT NICE AT ALL! 


I am not safe here. 

I am not 
safe 

anywhere 
while you 

treat your elsewhere 
brooding 

to my least 

commendable thoughts, 
or those 

that ought to be too youthful 
to saddle 

language, 
but which 

nevertheless are always 
the first 

to hobble home 
just 

as you want them — 
naked! 


< 35 > 












VERNAL EQUINOX 


I used your absence 

up; no day of it was wasted. 

When, at the first, it raised 

its granite vastness 

as a cliff that faced my daily door, 

I wrote a sentence 

on it which I never let you read. 

Nor could you 
ever; your return 
erased it. 

I cannot quote it 
now, but after it was written 
there, the whole cliff 
quivered through its width 
in drift of curtain. 

That was when 

it first began to shale off flakes 
the size of store-front window panes, 
the day I first installed my window, 
the day the rock wept slabs of rain. 


< 37 > 























MY OLD FRIEND, THE SORCERER 


I could sit here almost 
forever, watching the dormer window 
of the tall house on the ridge 
issue a flight of clouds. 

Some bulge slowly 

through the squeeze of frame, fretted 
by the roughened wood. Some ooze and fray, 
straggle and fall apart 
in shreds. Some clot and obstruct 
the window until activated by a shove. 

Some sail forth 

languidly like flotillas 

of immaculate ironing boards. 

Some puff in bounce 
to freedom with sooted bottoms, 

but the kick dies 

after the window has done with them, 

and all that is left 

is the long climb upward 

into the herd and across the meadows. 

And how the fields bruise 
with them under reiteration 
of interrupted heat! I too, 

wherever I am, in slow 
pace of assurance, 
steadied instantly, 

for he has to be in there, 
grinding out clouds — my old friend, 
the sorcerer — the sly one! 


< 39 > 












WHO GOES FIRST* 


Your clothes hide precious little 
of your armor of ivory. Probably you 
are unaware of the netting of veins 
that runs through it. Right now, I note 
the trembling of newly sprouted leaves, 
parting a crevice all along your arm, 
in twinkle from your shoulder 
to your wrist. 

A soft whip of forsythia has just uncoiled 
and risen from your collar 
to annoy your ear, 

No, you are not a liar. You are numb, 
so habit plated that the lick of truth 
will never touch your cheek, 
nor will the damp 

weight of the scent of lilacs encumber you. 

You stand too straight, 
sit with the inclination 
of your spine as focus for meditation, 
walk shod in quandaries of chamois, 
and occasionally reproach me for never 
removing these linked gloves of nerves 
which have driven my rings into ruts 
of accustomed bruises. A grape fall of lilac 
invades your eyes. I see it, but refuse 
to sniff. 1 smell it, but turn my head away. 
My face is stamped on the reverse side 
of the coin of caution which I give you, 
shoving its small chill under your plate 
as a fit bribe for your skittish mercy. 


< 41 > 

















THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS 


A stone, fitted to the grasp 
for throwing, 

was kicked 

from the beach and hurled high 
over crests of breakers, 
and out of context 
into larger 
experience, 

and stuck there, 
dipping and lifting 
on the buoyancy of air, blistering 
from hide of granite 
along the line of sky to shape 
of piel towers, keep 
and walls, 

in outgrowth 
of Basque perversity 
and stuck there, 

a parasitic nucleus 

of armed nobility, perched 

on the brow of a mountainous boulder, 

at perilous threat 

to shipping as the monstrous weight 
lowered to the slap 
of spray, 

or shot up smartly, 
hoisted to the race 
of clouds 

and stuck there 
on updraught of pride 
on diabolic insolence, 
keeping court coeval 
with reality 

— and stuck there. 


< 43 > 



RAG PICKER 


There you go, 

hung from whatever support 
keeps you dangled 
to scuff of feet 

that drag to the weight of the shadow 
they tow behind them. 

Then why is your neck 
worn out with your head? 

And why do you gnaw 
reluctantly on a knuckle 
that you never really liked? 

Suppose you had to haul 
your image about as I do, 
and that includes your shadow 
as well as the droop 
in the slouch that casts it! 

I have strained against 

the worst laggards there are 

in the junkyards of imagery, 

and I have never gone 

on a diet of fingers. I need them 

to repair their shadows. 


< 44 > 



THE INEVITABLE KNIFE 


I must look incredibly foolish. 

You will have to admit 

that a handle midway between 

the shoulder blades 

seems curious. 

I know it’s there. 1 feel it; 

the humiliating wag of it in bend 

of steel to weight of handle; 

the glint of metal 

yet unburied, triumphant 

in the wink of stealth; 

the chill of ice edge 

encroaching on the sovereignty of spine, 

and the nausea, 

just as it always has been, 

in the tempting availability 
of a useful excrescence 
for any type of push or pull, 

and as it always will be. 

I can never get used to it. 


< 45 > 



HIGH ON THREE CUPS OF TEA 


Street lights drown 
in wine. The ambered dark 
breathes an unpeopled festivity, 
as if the city had been recently 
deserted by a circus 
that left the lights on. 

This has been 

but the end of a day of it. 

Five persons, 

whose faces had never been anything 

more than basically facial 

came down 

with serious cases 

of beautiful eyes. 

I was embarrassed. 

A warehouse appeared 
as a Venetian palace. A limp 
banana lily languished 
on the lip of a garbage can 
and I, 

an occasional iconoclast, 
stood breathless before 
the perfection 
of a parking meter. 

Now, 

I go home 

to delight in the cracks 
in my ceiling while the light 
outside my window 
rinses layers of grime 
on glass 

with claret. 


< 46 > 



AS ONE POSSESSED 


Any time that you did not splurge 

by staring at blank paper 

seemed to be wasted, for the pressure 

persisted, nagging between your ears, 

or grabbing you by the spine 

and shaking you. Sleep came and went, 

but blotted none of it 

And so the words were pinched, 
twisted, stretched and worried; 
forced through a hole in your forehead, 
which widened with their girth, 

and everything rocked, 
limped, staggered and sagged; 
flesh from spectral insufficiency 
which made no sense in the flesh 
or out of it. You could not forget it. 

That was forbidden, 

but if you insisted on scratching at it, 

you broke your nails, 

and then your fingers. If it died 

to forget you, it stole 

a birth from you to be remembered. 


< 47 > 



AUTUMN WIZARD 


for Ray Bradbury 

HE fed your adolescence 
the youth of his poems, 
lo you remember 
fireplace releasing 
personal Octobers 
sendings 

of unusual leaves; that they were crimson, 
indigo, coral and turquoise 
when they streamed 
a spiral from the hearth grate 
out and once around him 
on their long glide to the ceiling? 

Do you remember that his house 
was a gaunt spinster with a rhomboid eye 
browed under angle of a gable; that the raw 
dawns of the crows had galled 
its clapboards? 

He was a poet then, as thin and angular 
as his house, and of a desperate season, 
when the sky screams and the clouds 
become impulsive. Not for all his summers 
has its bite diminished, 

even when the green-up 
hit him and his wallet swelled with May. 

He has been poet still, 

despite the blockage of a moveable screen. 

The Autumn stuffs the yawning 

of the fireplace and the flue packs solid. 

The screen is a wall of gems, 



< 48 > 






but even so, he sometimes 
removes it and the room is brawl 
of burst October when the crush 
crumbles and the whole belch of it charges 
the dining room door. Then he burrows 
through the heap of his poems for air 
while his house leans on the wind. 


< 49 > 













MIDNIGHT ON THE ESPLANADE 


You have propped your conservatism 
on the rail of a bridge. Bright smudges 
of lights awaken only a glimmer 
in cuff-links; not the sharp burst 
from unclouded metal in response 
to the glare 

from spike-crowned lamps, sided with glass, 
but minor luminescences 
from smears of gold. 

It is no night to wink manic 
with cufflinks, but one which molds 
chimeric monsters above the huddled 
houses in the street below; 
a night that dances on cheekbones 
with swarms of microscopic feet, 
a night that wads traffic in cotton batting, 

and no night at all for an off-duty 
businessman, who carelessly raises prodigious 
wings from the shoulders of a tuxedo, 
to allow his faultless tailoring 
to soak through, and his plumage 
to mat to a near slime, packed tight 
against the back of his coat. 

But, nevertheless, there you are, 
prodding at brittling financial considerations, 
and drowning your face in fog, while first 
one wing and then another, loosens 
under moisture and shakes free a bit of cramp 
from the discipline of muscles. 


< 51 > 



Feathers lift and ruffle 

down currents of gloss. An impetuous flounce 
stacks a side of sleekness 
against the dullness of serge. 

There is no alteration of your expression, 
or shift of your hands. And your lion, 
successfully trained in Yoga, lies 
less impatiently on the coolness 
of the flagging 

behind you than either of your wings 
on your cogitations, and awaits 
his enlightenment and your decision 
to continue with your long walk home. 


< 52 > 


THE BREAKER 


In the grasp of a wave 
you were gone; 
by a wave flung back. 

Where are you? 

After the wave withdrew 
the beach was wet with stars. 

But now the stars 
are dried and you 
are out of reach. 

Speak to me 

from all the many voices 
in this whispering sand. 
Somewhere the sun must find you. 


< 53 > 




CLOSE CALL FOR THE SECRET AGENT 


The tiny quintets of toes that had spattered 
the parapet, as if after intermittent 
catfalls during the preceding night, 

disquieted investigators, 
who wondered why they were indelible, 
what type of marking substance 
had etched them there, and what 
sort of night had happened anyhow. 

If anyone had told them 
of the correct gentleman in the impeccable 
suit, who had walked up and down 
the length of those neatly fitted 
segments of granite, folded tightly in 
upon himself with the severity 
of a furled umbrella, and who had tapped 
out his impatience with the tips 
of his fingers 

on the rock, as if the gray of it 
had barely clouded the keyboards 
of several petrified typewriters 


< 54 > 




they would have paid no attention 
at all, but if they had heard the slightest 
suggestion of fingerprints, left there 
by the secret agent, they would 
have had those blocks 
rooted up, hoisted, crated and trucked 

off somewhere for insatiable testing 
and, like as not, would have lost a whole 
police force in a manhunt for the secret agent, 
whose only crime had been the temporary 
dislocation of an aspect of cultural faith. 

They were not told. The timely intervention 
of a sparrow easily distracted them. 

The infuriating spots soon vanished. 



< 55 > 


THE RETRACTABLE BOOBY-TRAP 


After scraping 
myself from the asphalt, 

after prodding 
a mutinous hip, 

after brushing off 
and straightening up 
my dignity, 

after stuffing my embarrassment 
back in my purse, 

I searched both curb 
and gutter for the thing 
that tripped me. 

It was a dog, 
of course, now 

three blocks hence, 
strayed again from 
his human, tightening 
his hawser 
straight 

across the sidewalk 
at the height of shin. 

Effective as a booby-trap 
with retractable 
evidence. 

How many pedestrians 
did you tumble today? 

How many limping 
gaits proclaim 
your outing? 


< 56 > 



NOT NOW, WANDERER 


VENING by evening 
your shadow lengthens, 
but with this 

Autumn, as with others past, 
it is a lie. 


Never does it lengthen 
sufficiently to fall on me. 

Never does the dark grasp 
at the end of your reach 
fasten upon me and lift me 
to the crags where you stand guard 
and listen to my waiting. 

Still, the high howl of my hunger 
for you swoops, a lost bird, 
between your messenger ravens. 

I walk at night, expecting their brush 
of blackness across my cheek, 
but no feather of them tells me 
by contact that you are nearer. 

Not now, Old One. Not at any 
other now do I need you 
less than in previous Autumns, 

for the familiar and delectable tearing 

in the ring of my pelvis 

and the hot cloud 

fattening under my ribs, merge 

with the leaves’ urgency 

and the moon’s tight-fisted tension. 

With this suspense and the concentration 
of desire, I make my instrument 
of destruction and creation. 



< 57 > 







When Time shall bring my arms above 
and around the granite 
of your shoulders, and I am lost 
in the folds of your cloak; 
my waiting assuaged in the cavern 
left vacant by your eye 
beneath your hat brim, 

my extension will shorten, 

my aim will quirk, my concentration 

will sputter and the old work 

of will and incantation 

will dry up, 

forgotten. 


I need you, 

but even 
more than that, 

the need for you. Love, 
lust, or the inevitable conquest 
by thunderbolt, 
penetration by cast 
of lightning on the bare slopes 
browning above the fever of foliage: 

our predestined collision 

and the coiled sleep 

in the crater of your vacant eye 

must be withheld as many years 

have kept them 

pocketed for the conservation 

of power. 


< 58 > 


Your beard 

gathers grayness. Your face hardens 
with the weather as thunder 
rehearses its yearly promises 
among the hills. Somewhere beyond 
a number of Autumns, or even beyond 
all Autumns ever, 

you will become a receptacle 
for my remnants, pieced, 
at the last, among your bones. 

Wait, Wanderer, till then. 

Not now! 


< 59 > 


TAKE FLIGHT TO MONTREAL! 


Do you know what that tentacle, 
now weaving itself 
through the slats of your fire escape, 
has done for the front of your building? 

(It has not adorned it!) 

that when the citrus slant 
of early sunlight 
illuminates it from underneath, 
when lifted, 
and catches the pallor 
of its suckers wide-eyed, 

cabs slew broadside 
to the traffic and squad cars 
settle single file 
across the street? 

I suppose 

that whatever pours it 
like a viscid dripping 
from one of your open casements 
was installed in your fourth floor loft 
to frighten burglars, 
but 

nevertheless 

you could have encouraged 
whatever it is 
to hoist its excess yardage 
inside 


< 60 > 



even if you balked 
at arranging its removal 
or an adequate explanation. 

You had better 
plan on a long 
.and immediate 
vacation in Montreal. 


< 61 > 


THE ITINERANT WINDOW 


High on the night 
the slow drift 

of your windows southward 

with frequent 
idling 

pauses. 

The long reach 
of brilliance sizzling upwards 
from the grass 
dazzles 
over sill 

and downwards. 

Today, 

lodged accidentally 
in oak boughs, 
onyx 

caught out startled 
in the leaves 
winds tossing lozenges 

of glass about; 

tonight, 

perhaps, 
a strong gust 
unloading a lead-crossed 
rectangle, 


< 62 > 



and nudging it 
once more 
across the dark, 


suddenly 
switched on 
by laughter 



< 63 > 


WHO SAYS 


Who crunches cellophane 
inside my head 
and wakes me: 

Who sets fire to the silence 
with a sentence 

of no possible relevance, 

which hangs there, 
smouldering, 
but soundless, 

and which clings 
for days 
in the curtains? 

“Who?” 

I cry out 
to the listening 
all around me. 

They call me 
crazy. 


< 64 > 




CRISES OF REJUVENATION 
VOLUME 2 
1975 




BEFORE THE BEGINNING 


A poem clots 

like storm accumulating 

above a headland. 

Where space so recently 
was deep 
blue breathing, 

a huddle of inquisitive 
giants match 
the power 

of competitive shoulders, 
each trying 
to be the first 
to catch 
a glimpse of me. 

I hurry 

to the beach before the rain 
begins to break 
in braille 
against the sand. 


< 67 > 



A COVERING LETTER 


Dear Editors: 

I am sending you five rocks. 

They are overstatements of weight; 
too solid to stare 

into immediate dust; too quick with pyrite 
and quartz to be tedious, yet sufficiently 
conglomerate to confuse you, 
if you are normal; 

too much given to erratic winking 
to leave you in peace; infusible, 
insoluble and entirely 
untractable, but just vivid enough 
to make a vague blur out of anything 
you choose to set beside them. 

If you reject them, 

you will be ridding yourselves 

of the five best items 

for keeping other people’s poems 

from blowing away, 

of the five items best suited 

for throwing through the windows 

of the Ford Foundation, 

and if you keep them, 

you had better not forget 

to make them available 

for public inspection, 

because, if left unused, 

they rot, and in so doing, 

they are radioactive. 


< 68 > 



ENTRANCE OF ORIGINS 


Your face clears, and the rock behind 
stands out. A long swathe of your cheek 
has worn to granite. A crackling 
of mica flakes beneath your eye, 
and the bald 

smoothness of a boulder has burnished 
a subtle curve of cheek bone. Above the ledge 
beneath your eye moss drips a green 
stain, from a yellow arch, which leaks 
through fissures at the corners, 
and drains off, eating more cheek away 
until the harsh grain and the scab of lichen 
emphasize the gouge that writes parenthesis 
to nose and mouth. Slowly your face 
disintegrates and terminal moraine erupts, 
complete, unaltered and frighteningly alive. 


< 69 > 



APPORTS 


Shadows of a June day under my feet. 

These I can understand; 
transient, irrelevant. 

There is no more grief in these 
than dust. Shoes shuffle them. 

Winds rip them from the sidewalk 
and store them away in poems. 

I glance at the ceiling now. 

Can all these shadows, dancing on my paper, 
have fallen like a plaster surrender? 

Do they evacuate your poems 
for mine when the wind is reading?: 
silos of remembrance 
trailing shadows of Carcassonne? 1 


1 Carcassonne. A fortified medieval city in France, in the Pyrenees, in the 
Department of Aude, Occitanie. The immense fortifications have 52 towers. 

< 70 > 




NOT FUNGUS, NO, NEVER THAT! 


I am no longer bothered 

when that rotten stump breaks out 

in another human ear. 

Already four have fitted 
themselves neatly 
against the bark. 

Two, nestled 
at fork of roots, 
cup skywards. 

A cluster of six in miniature 
sprouted only yesterday. I wonder 
if the rain has any bearing 
on their size. They are so 
delicate, those small ones, 

and apparently quite attentive! 

I merely observe, go out there 
and catch up with any 
that might have planted themselves 
in the dark by stealth. 

I have finally come 
to accept them, even more than that, 
enjoy them. They are company 
for me, you know. 

They make me feel interesting. 


< 71 > 



SCHUYLKILL WEATHER 


With the air sagging 

from its fastenings all around you, 

and your head 

sticking up there to prop it, 

there is no chance 

for your knees at all. Your hands sulk, 
drooping from their roots 
at wrists, like sodden maple leaves 
that drip aphids and itches. 

It is all yours to walk 
the weather's weight with your feet. 
Your clothes insult you. You could bite 
the first slam of a restless door. 

The atmosphere nags, committed 
to a grudge it holds, 
like a threat of blackmail, 
or a pistol between the ribs. 


< 72 > 



I IMAGINE YOUR GUITAR 


Flinching, tremulous; 
tweaked 
like strings, 
an instant oscillates 
and worries 
air. I imagine 
your guitar 
as tension 
strung to no rigid 
frame, no bowl 
of resonance, 
but as an arbitrary 
scale you pinch 
against the stars, 

once wince at a time. 

The zenith flutters. 


< 73 > 



THE RAUCOUS HOUR 


The whiskery tip of a russet tail 
flicked out from under 
the sofa bed. 

Small wonder! 

Last night at eleven thirty 
Beethoven’s tally-ho Emperor 2 
cleared two chair backs, 
a book-piled table 
and the northernmost window-sill 

straight through the lowered sash. 

A searching broom 

has yet to dislodge the fox. 

The ceiling releases 
another knob of plaster, 

which strikes 
a glass and breaks it. 

The floor sinks wetly 
to my tread 

after Handel’s Niagara . 3 

Underneath or overhead, 

next door 

apocalypse 

explodes late 

every evening, 

and early Sunday mornings 

to awaken God. 


2 Emperor. Nickname for Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5. 
3 Handel’s Niagara. Allusion to Handel’s Water Music. 

< 74 > 




THE EVENING FISH 


HE FISH that a clean dusk lures 
between the stripped twigs 
of television thickets and chimneys 
choked with crooked pipes 
that stagger in coolie hats 
or balance 

the rotation of spheres 
and the creaking 
mobility of ventilator sculpture, 

this once were out too early, 
and let the sun flash them from brick 
and rusted iron, strike coral rhythms 
from their sides and shrill 
an agony of silver from their fins, 

this once, when preceding evenings 
had allowed only one explorer 
to rest, nose tangent to an upright 
and tail a perpetual ripple to secure 
a moment of stationary suspension, 

this once, before the blue strengthened 
and broke out in a lively rash 
of scattered stars; well before the cat 
returned with feathers in his whiskers, 
the same that so recently 
had silkened the overlap assumed 
to be scales, blazing from the swarms 
that streamed from cupolas 
dropped over water tanks, 

this once before fillets of feathers 
seeded the city wind for trawlers. 



< 75 > 







SO THERE, DESCARTES! 


I have had all the time 

in the universe to examine that table, 

the rug, 
the chair, 

and still I am not 
convinced of his departure. 

But he has disappeared. He took his feet 
away when he removed 
his head, shirt, tie and coat; 
everything he was 
above the table. 

Maybe 

he left his feet 
in front of the door 
of his top floor room. 

I shall waste 
no time in climbing 
all those stairs 
to see. 

He should be behind 
that unreplenished cup. An obstinate 
fold of his overcoat 
laps down darkly 

at the side of his chair. 

I would never allow 

myself to interfere with the reveries 

of a Secret Agent, 

who could be 

the muse, the saboteur subversive 
and obvious as always. 


< 76 > 



SUBWAY EXIT 


It had to be he. 

He was always like that; 
always going away; 

always his long 
familiar back; 
his giveaway gait, 

going, 

while keeping his face 
where he was going, 

keeping his identity 
untapped, 

just as he was at this moment; 

ten steps upward 
and ahead of me, 

keeping his face in sun 
and street for recognition. 

Was I to crush against 
the wall and pass him? 

to call out his name 

as if to spin him backward? 

or watch his back 
receding — 
if it were he? 


< 77 > 



SUSPENSE FOR DAYS 


Is it 

or is it not 
going to open up 

and when 
if it does? 

This 

I have asked 
myself 

when the steeple 
riffles 

slightly at the base, 
loosens 

its sheath of brick, 

and lets it 

hang in folds as if 

about 

to slam 

against the sky 
as basin of a raised 

umbrella. 


< 78 > 



Much 
too often 
just about to, 

like preliminary 
nasal tugs 

announcing 

sneeze! 



< 79 > 



STRIKE TWO 


I have just replaced 
the mirror with an echo, 
which fills the pallor of its absence 
with a perfect fit. 

Switching 

from sight to sound required 
no radical adjustment. 

Soon I no longer 

looked there to see if I was being watched, 
and went about my business, 
throwing the wall a word 
instead of the usual nervous glance 
and got the word back, 
slightly altered, 

instead of 

the image which the old glass 
smudged and blurred as if from constant 
indecision as to how I should have 
been reported. 

Now 

there is greater likelihood of an honest 

duplication, but when the time comes 

for my ear to be 

continually alert to any 

silence from the wall, 

not for gratuitous comment, 

but for the possibility that I am being 

overheard, I shall remove the echo, 

as I did the mirror, and leave 

the wall a blank for shadows, 

at the risk of being grabbed. 


< 80 > 



THE SOUND OF THE TINKLING 
CYMBALS 


They are here again today. 

Their fingertips are alive 
with buttercup bells. 

Patterns cut out of sunlight play over 
the flowers that dance 
in the winking of their hands. 

Hear them, Jerusalem! 

Already the air is rain waiting, 
pausing upon its patience until the end 
of the celebration through which 
the children, 
peering above the sills 
of their eyes, are asking 
if I am harmful. 

Is it not foolish of them 

when their chants cling to the corners 

of my darkness after their dance is done? 

My rooms are still and weighted, 

thick with the heather 

on the breath of the gods, 

and all night long the invitation 

of the fire in the bells. 

These are my brothers 
who counsel me in the singing 
of unknown birds. 


< 81 > 



SUSTAINED ENCHANTMENT 


You were always 
old 

in there. Way back 
behind accretions 
of protective selves, 

wise; 

sunken inside your own 

dark oracle, on which your volatile 

awareness floated, 

took fire 

when any particle, 

spun off from my unraveling 

vexation, 

merged with the frost 
that streaked a moon life through 
your somber and forgiving 
patience, 

like the cirrus bridging 
the conspiratorial circuits 
that pervade your hair; 

intrigues 

among arcana. You were 
always intolerably 
beautiful in there. 

I fought you much 
too often for my health. 

My nerves screamed 
in unison, 
still do 
and will 


< 82 > 



until I am caught back 

in my ageless home, somewhere 

between the dawn 

and darkness 

in your Satori.4 


IN THE CAUSE OF JUSTICE 


Nothing popped up 
out of that walnut 

at him 

when he split it 
open. 

Nothing diminutive 
shrilled 
an insult. 

Nothing spat 

when he crushed the shell. 

Nothing at all 
untoward. 

Nothing exploded. 

The shell 

was not even empty. 
Boycott walnuts! 


4 Satori. Japanese Buddhist term for awakening or understanding. 

<83> 
















THE IRON URGE 


It is a night of steel. 

The stars sting and refuse to desist. 

A smirk of a moon has been 
newly sharpened. You can hear it 
ring when a surreptitious breeze 
scratches its back against 
the crescent’s curve. 

It is the kind of a night 

that grasps both of your shoulders 

and wrenches them; a night 

when your body shrinks inside its coat 

and loses contact with its lining; 

when the sky is pallid 

with the pearled frost of arrested breath. 

The moon stirs, shrieks 

distantly beyond the crags, but the high 

profile of the head and beak 

of the eagle, emerging 

from the pinnacle, is silent. 

The mountain is slow in the process 

of hatching. It is cutting 

a predator instead of a tooth, and the three 

eggs, bleakly gleaming from their nest 

on the balustrade, freeze 

inward from the crackling surfaces 

of shells, through pyrite yolks, 

to agate verbs, unwinged and aging. 


< 85 > 



A CUP OF COFFEE 


When you lift the sash 

of your window, up goes 

wherever you are behind the upper one, 

and it remains there, writhing 

with apple boughs, galloping 

with a headlong meadow nowhere, 

while being its usual self in motion. 

But outside and underneath, my present 
situation spies on you. 

Fire escapes scuttle 

under a roofing of heavily drifted 

snow, climb into tree tops, 

or harass the base of a village spire, 

and you sip your coffee, not yet 
willing to recognize the texture 
of the wind that cools it, 

staring at what you expect to see, 

which actually rattles 

above your head, trapped between two 

plates of glass like the twin 

fake lenses, composed of the business 

of ants, that were framed 

into spectacles for Salvador Dali. 

Then, when you slam your window shut, 
the meadow and orchard 
telescope into your recent 
illusion, driving both it and mine 
to their customary distances, 

and once again the fire escapes 
threaten my neighbors’ windows. 


< 86 > 



THE BLIGHT 


He never sits still. 

Undisclosed business sends him 

on mysterious errands out 

of the room and back, then out again, 

but if he is unable to climb 
over human legs or ease 
his energy between the chairs, 
he will thrust his crooked smile 
across your shoulder 
and rattle it against your ear. 

He extracts individuals from a crowd, 
drags them into corners and 
murmurs darkly 
that the moon is rising 
that the lawn needs mowing 
and that he knows the cube root of 22,056 

(and you know what that means!) 

He proposes to announce it at the next 
meeting of the Board of Estimate 
if his victim refuses to give him 

the window at the second story front 
the fireplace in the parlor 
the column at the northeast corner of 
the porch 

the Wedgewood spittoon 
and the smaller of two stuffed walruses 

as embellishments for the cardboard palace 
he intends to build, and through which 
he has vowed to ride a bicycle 
in pilgrimage past all his mirrors, leaving 
behind him a votive offering 
to every image of his suit and tie. 


< 87 > 



If indeed the Board of Estimate has not 
been coerced to snore for a week 
through solutions of quadratic equations, 
or the swimming pool 

with the Picasso mosaic 
at the bottom has not been filled to the top 
with tar 

in excess of the truck-full which has clogged 
the chimney. 


< 88 > 


SOME DAY A SUDDEN CRAVING 


Old blood goes bad. 

Only freshly siphoned blood 
leaks new life into veins, 

and so, at the weekend 

he comes home 

with bottled refuse blood 

to feed the roses: 

white, with no blush 
rising. Innocence of Borgia, 
the Pontiff’s kin; 

thorns tucked away 
in thicket leaves. Beguiling 
kitten roses. Claws 
straining in velvet lairs. 

Old blood 

goes bad in storage, 

but sated with mild 
hallucinogens, his roses 
thirst for something real. 

They smile at him. 


< 89 > 





A TRYST BENEATH A BIRD HOUSE 


You have gone 

up into your head, and have vanished 
completely. What 

can be going on up there? The lights 
have been awakened 
all at once. 

The ladder 

which you must have climbed, 
no longer props your chin. Someone 
must have drawn it up. Are the birds 
healthy? Are they eating well? 

I just saw two indigo buntings 
hurtle out of both 
your eyes in unison, 
like simultaneous bullets. 

It must be fun 

to do that, especially when your finger 
flips the right switch unconsciously, 
and off they go; 

or when a gull sails out of your mouth. 
It seems so easy. 

Maybe everything is easier up there. 

I never got that far. 

I stayed behind, 

down here hoping, at the low end 
of your neck, to meet you 
at your collarbone. 


< 91 > 



HOME CAN BE ANYWHERE 


They come in clots; the abused buildings 
with boarded windows, the empty shops 
and bars that barely function. 

Between them, squashed houses 
sink in lots, frantic 
with the dance of Shiva, 
that suffers from a sick burlesque 
of scrub pines, or with deciduous runts, 
whose fat 

bouquets of leaves fuss 
in their discontent 
against indifferent walls. 

All these along the edge 

of a fed-up ocean, 

dabbing at the shore by habit, 

whose beaches, three parts soil 
to one part sand, 
breathe an unlikely green 
against their raw sienna. 

A fossil, still alive 
in squalor? The crisp, blue buses 
rocket through its veins, 
carrying no advertising, 
even for miracles, 

but the proud plaques, in every park, weep 
the gilt loose from the grooves 
of letters, that spell the count 
of those who died 

in two World Wars, Korea and Vietnam 
for Staten Island, but never 
note Staten Island’s death. 

Be sure of that! 


< 92 > 



They burnt the certificate 
that made that real, 

and lie about it brazenly 
in air-conditioned buses. Home 
can be anywhere at all, they say, 
even on Staten Island, and they mean it. 


< 93 > 


THE BRAIN WALKS CLOSE BEHIND 


Your face precedes you. By some 
three inches the business section 
follows it, keeps it positioned 
for recovery should panic speed it 
into partnership and catch it unprepared, 
as when a word of greeting snags 
in the stateliness of its passage 
and arcs the crevice between 
both halves in front of your ears. 

So often I have seen the ritual 
your nose and cheekbones 
leading their high commands; a triumph 
of bowsprit, an elevation of reliquary, 
presentation of armorial claims, 
while eyeless and with folded hands 
an attendant animates or wears it, 

until a stare or a word too strong 

to be trapped between the lid and the box 

springs abrupt collision 

and catches your largo summarily, 

with or without intention, 

and you are all of a heap 
in yourself at once. It happens often, 
but drops no mileage from the march, 
invalidates no prestige. 


< 94 > 



ANCESTRAL VISION 


Now your recurrent 
father surfaces; from crypt 
of dream, from all humanity's 
first oracle holds court, 
transfiguring the face 
behind your beard. And who 
are you? Priest, Hierophant? 

Scholar of Akashic scripts? 

Our common ancestor who counsels 
elves? Confessor to all 
innocents who seek the Grail? 

Your youth denies it. 

Your casual eyes conflict 
in seeming with an intensity 
that holds them captive 
to a cosmic wisdom. 

Are you gone up 
in smoke, leaving this August 
and learned personage custodian 
of your body, or are you 
host to a more aggressive 
spirit, shuffling both 
immortalities inside your skin 
to justify one ego, or are you 
saint in fact, fiction 
painting your identity on subtle 
truth? And what is that? 


< 95 > 



THIS CERTAIN QUAINTNESS 


OOD GRAY Grand-Daddy, stuffed 
into the clutter of a room too small 
for emotional surprises, 
rummages contentedly 
through psychic bric-a-brac and bits 
of this and that left over 
from a padded century; 
a peacock sadly used 
by years; an aquatint of the Prater;5 fussy 
doilies everywhere; a mixed bouquet of dried 
leaves and dead grass; a sculptured 
marble clock, wriggling with ormolu; the smell 
of dust-thick portieres, all spilling 
from an era spawned by such minutiae, 
while somewhere underneath the papers 
on the desk an old id waters 
at the eyes; while above the circling time 
an Oedipal triangle holds hands 
in gilt clinging to sensuous lead; 
while in the basket by the hearth 
an infantile 

libido sneezes; while in the wideness 
of outside the oily spread and sprawl 
of a squirming light-show oozes from being 
into nothing and back again, spelling 
the name of Sartre 

on cockroach carapace of Now. 

Would it were Jean-Paul Jones instead! 

But nothing ever seems quite simple, 
even names. 



5 Prater. Amusement park in Vienna. 

<96> 






This is our heritage, which never 
was completely serviceable, being a hamper 
full of hand-me-downs, knitted conundrums, 
whose soiled and simple answers glut 
the button box, mementos of the 
Franco-Prussian 

War and memoranda on the thrust of birth. 

What shall we do with all dear Dr. Freud’s 
accumulation of pressed infancies? Now that 
we have become so long accustomed to them, 
how can we bear to trade off 
for uncertainties, this certain quaintness? 


< 97 > 


THE SUMMER’S FINAL SEASON 


WAS vulnerable; that deep green dent 
in the range of mountains. Spring and Autumn 
roused watersheds that made 
an unbroken mud-hole 
of the glowing fields. Winter brought 
avalanching snow, and ice in crevices, 
that slid off cliff-sides, sending them to plough 
the steeps that once had held them, or sprang 
the gang-war boulders, sending them 
down in leaping triumph, end over end, 
to the certain demolition of anything that blocked 
their way, Summer sank down among the peaks, 
or burned high in unmoving air above the village, 
which somehow had crystallized there, 
even under these 

conditions, and had remained intact for 
centuries 

with a repair here, a patch there; bright 
with whitewash and weeping thatch, 
hard edged in a loose 

geometry of clusters. The Cross on the church spire 
agonized even the far-off observer’s eye. 

Sheep mourned and roosters cheered. Laundry 
danced on Mondays behind the kitchens. 

Children repeated 

hereditary rites in the rutted roads, but still, 
now, in the cauldron of Leo, a black smudge of no 
disturbing size, hung as if appreciably distant 
above the village; hung motionless, gained density, 
grew blacker, larger, as if in slow and regular 
descent. All was untainted around it. 

Heat dazzled in the dooryards. Barns and haycocks 
quivered in the haze, and the days drowned 
in their night-falls. The moon took over, 
chilling around 



< 98 > 







the blot that never scattered, never shredded 
or shifted from its post above the huge house 
of civic affairs, yet thickened 

with each hour’s weighting. 

It was a dream, of course, a night’s glimpse 
bitten from a long succession of the same 
in a history of suspense. Routine had long ago 
numbed everyone. One day the cloud would liberate 
its cargo, would tire of its darkness 
and release it 

on unwavering sunlight, or else would plummet 
like a stone on target, bringing both contents 
and container, if they were separate, 
crashing 

through the rooftops in this thimbleful of motions. 
But after so many abortive catastrophes 
had loomed 

once and had been forgotten, what difference if 
a deviant threat imperiled this tedious splendor! 


< 99 > 


KEEPING THE WINDOW CLOSED 


The last time 
I opened the window 
the moon got in, 

streaked through 
between the sill and sash 
and plunged into the mirror. 

It stuck there. 

Now I cannot get it 

out from between 

the mercury and the glass. 

Look in the mirror 
any time of day or night, 
and there the moon is, 

guarding the absence 

of your image 

and gloating serenely, 

I resent it; 
the stars too, 
that were sucked behind 
the speed of moon 
into the parlor, 

where they roosted 
on anything and crackled, 
flared, went out, 
then flared again, 

and vanished. 

That ... bothers me. 


< 100 > 



SHADOW FAKER 


It can hardly be easy to summon 
shadows after sunrise, 

to pack them 
in concentrate about 

your waking, 

molded to your appearance, 

yet that is what you drag 
out of bed every morning, 

When you plunge your clouded 
consciousness into the bath, the water 
undoubtedly forces unattached 
masses of darkness 
upward and about your head. 

for now you have shaken 

the splendor of night from about 

your ears, after entering, 

a tall drift of coolness, 

into the field of fluorescent inspection, 

still reminiscent of a slender 

rise of winter smoke. 

How much of you squanders 
your reality 
in keeping you a fake 
hallucination? 


< 101 > 



THE CAPRICORN TAPESTRY 


Out there in the darkness 
bushes wink up at him.6 

For us, they are enlivened 
by fireflies, but to him they are cover 
for marauders. The telephone 
sits guileless, on the table, 
saying nothing. 

Let its silence 

be tapped, for silence listens 
to unspoken guilt. 

Call out the goon squad! 

The one-man vigil 

across the street, crashes 

through drawn blinds and the message 

on his swaying placard, 

in the ice-blue of unwavering light, 

reads its repeated accusation 

from every mirror. 

a sinister white sphere, 

now resting by the herbaceous border, 

has been lit with leprous 

malignancy by the moon, 

and is bound to explode. 

Even the surface 

of the moon is scouted by astronauts, 
looking down here, 
plotting something. 

Order them back! Quickly! 


6 Him. The subject of the poem is President Richard Nixon. 

< 102 > 




Throw them a banquet, 
anything, to keep them 
from getting up there 
to spy on the chimney 

Who knows 

what danger may seep 

down the flue? 



< 103 > 


THE LODGER 


The sky herds its clouds, at least 
on two sides of this floor and ceiling. 

A modest wall secures their hopefully 
stable relationship. The bed dozes, 
but not the comb, 
stood nearly on its head, 
which teeters 

on one corner gleefully and which, 
thank God, 

though scaled to the universe 
of an almost floor-to-ceiling goblet, 
dents the mattress only slightly. 

A match from that same dimension lies 
regrettably slack on the carpet, its wood 
relaxed almost to the pliancy of twine. 
The wardrobe, all of glass, 
except for its frame, has been scrubbed 
to the cleanliness of nothing at all, 
and proves itself to be an admirable 
container of nothing. It is a good room, 

a small and well swept corner 
of experience, which just this week 
is entertaining some random items 
from a somewhat mismatched awareness, 

but does it matter, 

when you come down to it? 

The clouds are purposeful 
in their drive 

and the carpet is spotless. 

I would never leave this room at all, 
except for the rent, and that 
is reckoned only by the type who darkens 
the exquisite blue in that glass with wine. 


< 104 > 



AQUILA 


It is difficult for me to speak 

the audacity of your images 

into my descriptions of you, 

as it must have been also for you 

to loosen and tumble the side of a mountain, 

before you eased yourself 

out of the peak that hatched you, 

while blinking at the bleached sky 
and the great fins of snow behind you 
as the moon bounced its replicas against 
your pride and retrieved them 
for bent reminders. 

There was then, as now, 

the same experimentation 

with the muscles of back and shoulder, 

the same tentative archings 

of unmanageable wings, which rose again, 

even though completely exhausted; 

the same crane of your head 

to the zenith and the same attempts to whet 

both your beak and eyes against the moon, 

as if in anticipation 

of that extended gaze that leaps 

for the sun and grasps it 

as now. But then, the process 

was longer and far more cautious. For now, 

as in two hand grasp you set the lectern 

between your purpose and your audience, 

the high heft of your wings 

is definite, their grandeur 

as chilling as the night 

that willed you from its granite, 


< 105 > 




and your lashes take fire 
from the cargo stolen from the sun 
behind them. The flint ridges rise 
in blades from your shoulders, 
and the drone 

of recycled formulae from several 
years’ storage in this one room, 
is broken as the eagle crashes 
against the ceiling. There 
the spell is terminated. Night hardens 
into deafness, drowning. 


< 106 > 



CRISES OF REJUVENATION 
1986 ADDENDUM 





COMPANIONS 


These boots, familiar, 
are wearied with the weight of walking. 
Bare toes peep out through leather 
as the boots transform to feet 

The feet crack with drying 
and the boots are aching. 

Standing before the fireplace 
these boots, these feet become 
as one and wait there patiently 
to be thrown out together. 

The owner will have to do 
without either boots or feet; 
the feet before they crack and stiffen 
and the boots have flattened arches. 


< 109 > 



THE SORCERER’S MOON 


On a patch of sod 

at the forking of two roads 

there grows a tree; 

its leaves compact and black, 

in contrast with the woods behind it, 

which cradles the infant moon. 

the same moon that vibrates 
from the mirror in your absence; 
the same moon that soars 
beyond the mountain peak 
that disgorges a granite eagle; 

the same moon drenching 
a meadow in which a giant wine glass 
swirls the fragments of cloudlets 
in its gullet; the same which our hands 
would touch in search for keenness 
burning, as if with the intensity 
of cold, the anger of outrageous summer. 


< 110 > 



SKY HANGER 


According to the instructions I had 
to jump, I did 

from the ledge at the top of a mountain 
into nothing and plunged 
a short shock downwards, 
then steadied upon the air. 

The mountain backed away 
from me and merged behind me 
with all its brothers 

and I was where I was 

alone 

from a wide wing dangling, 
thinking of the absurdity 
of my moccasins 

when hanging from skies 
that pulled in tall heaps of blue 
above me, facing a wall of hills 
that bucked and heaved at times 
on their line of march along the valley 
or jostled with one another 

while down some thousand 
feet below were dairy farms 
resorts, spires, silos, an eyecup lake, 
or a country road, unmindful 
of a speck that eddied where I was, 
naked in my fear of Up and Down 
and of Out to Every Side 
in all their vastness. 


<111 > 



ADVANCE UPON CANAAN 



E WERE a long time coming: 
ours was no Exodus, 
but a continued coming: 
not as the dunes creep, 
soon to be anchored 
by grass, 

scrambling across them, 


not as the waves which are always 
coming, but never arrive. 


As burrs fasten to pelts, 

as pods on one wing circling, 

and nearly invisible, slowed and halted 

by fitfulness of wind, 

we came upon Canaan 

and took root in the midst 

of the brush, grew up through thicket 

and resistance of indigenous tribes 

until we were grown enough 

to look over the dunes 

toward our Country and presentiment 

of our City, at one time 

Babylon, at another Jerusalem. 

In both home and in the wilderness 
we shall sing the song 
of our lady of revelations 
in a strange land. 


Above our heads in the sky 

the wheel turns, still turns 

and is stilled: all wings and eyes 

seeing and seen, moving and motionless 

completion of ourselves 

at our exit as at our beginning, 

packed thick with good and guilt 


< 112 > 






At one with our fathers, 

judges, kings, prophets, 

back before realization in constant rotation 

over the top of the hill, 

from which we shall see the land 

we have yet to conquer, 

though we may not attain it 

in our ration of life. 

The dunes come 

but they are anchored by grass. 

The sea is forever coming, 
but never arrives. 

Ours was a continued coming 
over the ages to Canaan 
beneath the chariot wheels 
which have yet to come. 


< 113 > 


LEAVINGS 


HOSE LEGS you left here 
still stick straight out 
across the doorway. Some day 
they are going to trip me, 
and that spread of hand 
and forearm 
pressed against a panel, 
probably to brace a leaning shoulder 
and somehow in brightness — 

(that kitchen light 

has always dazzled me) 

but not in shoulder. Oh no, 

No arm there. Just an aggressive 
jutting from between the coats. 

Then that chevron fringe of beard 
without a face to hang it 
dangles for a moment in the mirror; 
one hand wrings a clutch of fingers. 

There is always a merry crackling 
in the corner when that happens, 
always beside the refrigerator. 

And no one left to snoop for beer? 

An eye rolled to the side 
comes on, goes off. A bent back 
at my desk, a strain of shirt 
across the shoulders: highlights 
which the desk lamp caught and lost. 

And how about that foot and trouser 
to the knee, supported 
by a sturdy chair? 

There ought to be a knee bent 
with an arm across it. 



< 114 > 







But everything 

ends off abruptly, like sentences 

that people start 

and suddenly abandon. 

They should come back some day 
to haunt their speakers 

like the spare parts left around 
to litter up my rooms 
since you decentralized. 

My God, man, 

will you never pull yourself 

together? what sort of stripped down 

suggestion of the rest of you 

is badgering someone else? 


< 115 > 








THE LISTENING ROOM 


Green chill awaits me. 

A hard unripening roundness 
daily expands, encroaching 
on my absences. Only a thread 
of floor remains to me 
for sidling to that pinched corner 
where I keep my soul. 

Tonight I shall return 
to fetch it. I shall inch the door 
open upon the increasing 
pressure, the insidious glow, 
and fling my keys inside 
beneath that patch of ceiling, 
breathed green, to which the floor 
replies in kind. 

Let them talk green 

at the thickest of that tart fragrance 

that exudes from a seedless core, 

while I rejoice 

as the spring lock rejects me. 

Ours fastens on mine no longer 


< 117 > 



WHERE WILL IT ALL BEGINS 


Night 

fritters its life 
away. 

The dawn 
is working 
on another morning. 

letting it 
ooze at its least 
in dribbles 

through inky fingers. 

That’s stingy; 

flap both hands awake and let 
the spatter fly, 

or better 

dump it all 

of a lump in the ocean 
and see what happens. 


< 118 > 



THE WATCHER AWAKENED 


The sweep of an eyebrow measures 
the breadth of whiteness, still 
unbroken by writing. 

I did not 

draw it there; it loiters 
above the area, 
then drifts away 

If the wind 

brought it, bobbing on the viscid 
current of time, 
night 

anticipated my delusions. 

The eye beneath it 

blossoms on the paper and re-routes 

my pen. 


< 119 > 



CAT S CRADLE 


It is probably all tinsel 
and radiator paint: 
this prodding with eyes; 
this tickling with the edge of a smile; 
the appearance of nearly 
paranormal knowledge in the intensity 
of your gaze. A rehearsal, perhaps, 
or something you wear to parties, 

I tell myself, 
after so many feints 
at offers in an atmosphere 
hypnotic with intimacy; 
glances slipped to me like bribes, 
like joints, 

which you know 
will never be taken; 
smiles that might well be stolen 
from you 
if I believed them, 

and that limp, 
leftover hand on the couch 
which is waiting for something. 

Nothing that I would do, 
of course, 

and nothing you want to happen. 


< 120 > 



WATER BABY 


I seem to have you limp 
in my hands. 

Like water 

you are hard to hold. 

An arm leaks stealthily 
down through my fingers. 

A leg, flung over my thumb, 
kicks convulsively, almost 
pulling the rest of you after it, 
out and over, 

and then my forefinger; 
goes through your eye. 

Your nose sinks inwards; 

I wish you would stiffen up 
for once, bone yourself 
back to some semblance 
of a human body, 
and lend me an arm 
that bends 
only at the elbow. 

I go on wishing. 


<121 > 



MY COUSIN IN VERTICAL ORBIT 


She was so neat about it. 

She slid head downward into the chimney 
and skimmed the floor from the fireplace 
to the window. Non-stop and out. 

Then up over eaves 
and back down 

in swan-dive through the parlor. 

The last time the rug went with her. 

It will home, grime thickened 

at her next sweep through, 

and I, apparently, 

will be cursed with a night 

of numbering beers against 

the underbellies of her revolutions, 

or of strolling among the fireflies 
at the garden’s end, 
for the best view of her backward 
curve of spine, as she arches 
the ridgepole cleanly 
between two lightning rods, 
and drives the bats 
as crazy as human beings. 

She was neat 

about it. Even with her measurements, 

she negotiated the bore of the flue, 

emerging as plump 

as ever, never having dislodged 

a gobbet of soot, spotted 

her dress, or unhooked her coiffure, 

but three were many times 
more than enough 
of that. 


< 122 > 



YOU NEVER NOTICE 


At the street crossing 
I took you by the crook of your arm. 
With the faintest sound 
of ripping, it came off, and I 
was left holding it. 

You never noticed, 

but continued to gash the air 

with your face as you shoved it ahead 

of you to the opposite sidewalk. 

Your mind 
ran no longer 

beside us; it has started up 
an idea or two 
in an alley and was off 
in pursuit. 

Small swarms of letters 
clustered in wriggling blots 
against the sky. Your eyes worried 
at their spasms of rearrangement, 
squinted apparent meanings 
from several spellings. 

So often 

you leave me with the stem 

of a conversation 

clamped in my teeth, a rhythm 

of breathing 

in the telephone, 

an arm. 


< 123 > 



OPTICAL ILLUSIONS 


My bones are bare now; 
gnawed down by moonlight 
and picked clean. 

They are flashes, 

a scarce width more 
than flickerings 

of recognition. 

When you sort them, 
they know your fingers; 

the silver bowl, 
the icy water, 

their convulsed appearance 
on its surface, 

and in your hunger. 


< 124 > 



ENOUGH OF THIS 


Shut up, old wound. 

If your mouth must stay open, 
let it laugh; 

dry cackles locked together 

like knitted burrs, 

lodged in the scruff of memory, 

and let the words 
that fester in it terminate 
before shape 
catches them up 
in your thread of a throat 

Clamp your gaping 
truth on quiet. 


< 125 > 



BAD COMPANY 


If a thick, green discharge 

issues from underneath his fingernails 

and stains the carpet, 

and if the teeth in his smile 

gleam solidly with stainless steel, 

a bad evening is probably 
ahead of you, 
if not a frightful one. 

If she brings in a dazzle 

of chandelier lusters and 

a stiletto laugh; 

if her heels strike sparks 

from the parquetry and her hair 

retracts visibly into her scalp, 

meditate, if you can, 
upon an inexpensive lawyer, 
and fire insurance, 

or if the two of them 
arrive together as a team and vanish 
upon the moment of appearance, 
scrutinize the fireplace, 

then if any sort of ankles and shoes 
whatever hang into it 
from the chimney, 

saturate the whole house 
with the stench of cabbage (even 
if simulated) and take your leave. 

Close the door smartly. 

Hang some bacon from the knob, 
and run like hell. 


< 126 > 



IT MUST BE A JOKE 


Your face has slimmed 
and twisted, one eye 
exploded into the center 
of a spider’s wheel; 

Your nose has been smudged 

from sight, your mouth 

slipped sideways and drawn crooked. 

How have you become 
so distorted when my face 
is missing from behind 
your shoulder; 

when you clutch at yourself 
with both arms across 
from me at the table; 

when there is no mirror? 


< 127 > 



WINDFALL 


Greenbacks slithering 
across my desk. 

They rustle. Gouged 
from envelopes 
drifting into piles. 

Sticking, 

wilted and crumpled; some few torn. 
They are mounting. I can hardly 
count them. They continue coming. 

Where shall I put 

tomorrow’s payload since today’s 

still must be organized, 

how handle them? Bind them in packs 

of twenty and press them down 

to fit in tidy packets? 

Leaves are drifting into herds 
and from the boughs 
of abandoned trees in silence 
silver coins are falling. 


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DOWN MEADOW SLOPE 


Look down the moon-sweep 
to a march of spruce 
and see your own form 
naked, 

dancing: 

how fireflies come and go 

as if from between your ribs 

how grasses bristle 

through your shins 

how you stick on the twigs 

of a crouching bush 

as if you were a twist of fog. 

You are! 

but what is lacking 
there tonight that seems 
to make you real? 


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END OF AN ERA 


Victory fallen from the Arch in Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn 

You would never be satisfied 
with conciliation; 
deploring peace talks 
you would press your demands 
for bombs. 

Anyone with as many sharp spikes 
and excrescences to embellish 
a helmet as you have 
could only cry for combat. 

Look how you have incited 
your horses to rear and plunge 
as you lash them to leaping 
from the top of the arch. 

You have long been pleased 

to deafen daily with those trumpets 

in your ears. Life without 

a continuing clamor 

would be unproductive for you. 

You will have to be Queen Tumult to exist, 
to fulfill your imagined destiny. 

But as of this date 
you have gone too far. A step back 
(always a misdemeanor in your code) 
to an extra thrust 

of your highly unnecessary sword 

has unstepped you 

and you have been poured 

head down in a tumble of scrap metal 

cast as your garments 

from the rear of your chariot, 


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secured still by some obstinate 
remnant of uncorroded bronze 
to your heels, with your foolish sword 
menacing pedestrians below you 
in Grand Army Plaza. 

So much for you, 

Senora Machismo! 



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SOUTHWARD RUNNING 


It is all as it should be; 
he shall soon be entering 
from the North 
as I have often seen him, 

running 

his right arm lifted high 
above his head 
flourishing a five-branched 
candelabrum 

its small fires flattened 
by his speed and bright 
with the wine-sharp pallor 
of a city evening 
against the peach glow 
of the arching lamps 

running 

as if with the pressure 
of news to spring 
upon the ear and eye 

in sparks 

in mantra. 

ignoring questions 

friends and onlookers swept aside 

slight curling at the edges 
of a skimmed milk moon 
and all the sky 
widened to five more senses 
and dimensions, 

running! 


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VANDALISM 


A smart bite of gravel 

which you dropped in my boot 
and which gnawed at the stance 
of my determination or a muscle 
rendered useless 
by a bruise; 

bullet holes pocked 
in the lid of my grand piano 
after your last invasion 
of my privacy of mind. 

These I charge 

with damage to my self esteem 
not you 

with your fuse and matches. 


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ANOTHER SEASON 


In bygone years the sunlight 
bit the buildings just this way 
in this season by late afternoon. 

Now every one of them has come 
to life with all its faces, 
voices, emotions and events 
so clearly that they all 
but injure me. 

Bricks still 
glow almost as with some 
certain light within them. 

In country towns a new paint 
in pastels takes on an unsuspected vigor 
as if to say, 

Here I am. 

So many budding Autumns 
heaped up upon one another 
in piles like flaming leaves 
recall as many other times 
and places as music 
and as many dead beginnings. 


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ABOUT THE POET 

Barbara Adams Holland was born on July 12, 1925 in Portland, 
Maine. Her childhood was spent in Doylestown, PA and then in 
Philadelphia. 

Her father was Leicester Bodine Holland (1882-1952), an architect 
who moved in mid-career to art history and archaeology. For a 
number of years he commuted weekly from Philadelphia to Washing¬ 
ton, where he was Chief of the Division of Fine Arts at the Library of 
Congress. Later he taught at Bryn Mawr College, and also worked 
with the Corinth excavations of the American School in Athens. 

The poet’s mother was Louise Adams Holland (1883-1990), an 
archaeologist and academic specializing in the Latin language (her 
last work was a study of the Roman poet Lucretius). Her other 
passions were gardening, swimming, and exploring the mountains of 
the Adirondacks and Tuscany. 

An aunt, Leonie Adams, was an esteemed poet, and a one-time 
Poet Laureate of the United States. 

Barbara’s sister, Marian (b. 1927), married an architect and lived 
in Philadelphia. Her brother, Lawrence Rozier Holland, became a 
physicist. 

Her sister Marian McAllister writes about Barbara’s childhood: 

Barbara was sickly for the first year or two and had little 
contact with other children. 

She taught herself to read, at first from labels on food 
packages and ads in trolley cars. By the time she was five she 
was teaching me, two years younger, to read as well. 

Living within walking distance of the University (of 
Pennsylvania) Museum, where her father often took her, 
Barbara developed an interest in other languages, first in 
hieroglyphics, then in Chinese. 

All three of us went to an old-fashioned “dame school” of 
some twenty-four children from the University of Pennsylva¬ 
nia community. The single room held “classes” ranging from 
kindergarten through sixth grade. 

Barbara then attended private schools, graduating from 
the Baldwin School in 1943. 


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Barbara Holland received a B.A, from University of Pennsylvania 
in 1948, and an M.A. from the same institution in 1951. 

Although she had completed all the course work for a Ph.D., she 
left graduate school without completing her thesis. 

She worked in Worcester, MA on a new edition of the Merriam- 
Webster Dictionary, taught at a college in West Virginia, researched 
genealogies, and then worked in New York City for a Wall Street 
brokerage. 

Finally, the lure of Bohemia — Greenwich Village — and the life 
of a poet, became irresistible. With the slender income from a small 
cache of stocks and bonds, she quit working around 1962 and rented 
the apartment at 14 Morton Street in Greenwich Village that would 
be home for the rest of her life. 

Her first chapbook publication, self-published and undated, was 
Medusa, a 20-page stapled booklet. Another collection, Return in 
Sagittarius, was published in 1965. Another chapbook was A Game of 
Scraps (1967). A projected volume of her poems with the photographs 
of Donald Curran apparently did not materialize, but the poems alone 
appeared in a slender chapbook as Lens, Light, and Sound (1968), 
reproduced in the present volume. Other small chapbooks were 
Melusine Remembered (1974), On This High Hill (1974), and You Could 
Die Laughing (1975). 

Holland received a Creative Arts Public Service Fellowship in 1974, 
and during the following year was engaged in workshops and visits 
with many schools. She was a fellow at the Macdowell Colony in 1976. 
She read frequently throughout the Northeast at poetry readings, 
guest-edited two issues of Boston’s Stone Soup Poetry journal, and 
read her work on radio for WBAI, WRVR, WUWM, and WNYC. She 
recorded for Folkways Records and on broadcasts for Voice of America. 

The poet was also involved with The New York Poets’ Cooperative, 
a writers’ group founded in 1969. A founding member, she organized 
and scheduled poetry readings they hosted at St. John’s Church in 
the Village. 

Her greatest success was in the then-burgeoning little magazines, 
and Holland could boast that her poems had appeared in over 1,000 
magazines and publications. She was certainly one of the most- 
published American poets of the 1970s and 1980s. 

Her association with The Poet’s Press began in 1973 with the 
publication of Autumn Wizard, a sampler from her long cycle of poems 
inspired by the surrealist painter Rene Magritte. This cycle, Crises of 
Rejuvenation, was published by The Poet’s Press, in 1973 and 1974 in 


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two volumes, and remains in print in a single-volume 30th anniversary 
edition. Other collections of Holland’s work from this publisher 
include Burrs (1977), Autumn Numbers (1980), Collected Poems, Volume 
1 (1980), In the Shadows (1984), Medusa: The Lost Chapbook (2019), 
The Secret Agent (2019), The Beckoning Eye (2019), Out of Avernus 
(2019), The Shipping on the Styx (2019), and After Hours in Bohemia 
( 2020 ). 

Another small press, Warthog Books, issued its own “selected 
poems” collection of Holland’s work, Running Backwards (1983). 

Holland’s readings of her poems were from memory, even includ¬ 
ing her longer dramatic pieces. Audiences were riveted by her 
performances, whether of the spine-chilling “Black Sabbath,” the 
self-effacing humor of “The Inevitable Knife,” or the desolate sorrow 
of “Not Now, Wanderer.” Michael Redmond wrote of her in 1981 in The 
Newark Star-Ledger, “[S]he is a poet who evades categorization. Her 
work has been variously described as romantic, mythic, supernatural 
and surreal; she is as adept at evoking a seascape as in creating a 
monologue by Medusa. There are city poems, and love poems, and 
poems both funny and terrifying. The common denominator is her 
extraordinary imagination, the classical precision of her language, 
and a wild sense of humor.” 

During her last five years, the poet was beset with health prob¬ 
lems. She had difficulty reading her work, and her performances were 
marred by long pauses and memory lapses. After a series of small 
strokes, her health deteriorated and she spent some time recovering 
at her sister’s home in Philadelphia. Returning to New York, she died 
there on September 21, 1988. 

Several contemporaneous reviews and essays had acknowledged 
Holland’s extraordinary gifts, most notably a long review by Stephen- 
Paul Martin in Central Park (1981), and a symposium issue on the poet 
in Contact II (1979), but Holland never achieved the fame she richly 
deserved. 

Commentary about Holland, including interviews, can be found 
at www.poetspress.org/fp_holland.shtml 

For those who heard her, or who have collected her books, 
Holland remains a vital voice. She is still whispered about as “the Sybil 
of Greenwich Village.” 


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0>e poet’s 
Press 

PITTSBURGH, PA 


ABOUT THIS BOOK 


The body text for this book is Cheltenham, a typeface designed 
in 1896 by architect Bertram Goodhue and printer Ingalis Kimball. 
The fully-developed typeface was designed by Morris Fuller Benton 
at American Typefounders and released in hot metal in 1902. Until 
the 1930s it was a dominant type for headlines, and its legibility and 
character made it a popular face in Arts and Crafts publications, 
including those of The Roycrofters. It is still employed for headlines 
by The New York Times. The digital version employed in this book is 
ITC Cheltenham, designed in 1975 by Tony Stan for International 
Typeface Corporation. 

Poem titles are set in Schneidler Black, designed by F. H. Ernst 
Schneidler for the German Bauer type foundry in the 1930s. 

The title-page border and the block initials are from the press of 
Alessandro Paganini, son of the Renaissance Venetian printer Pagan- 
ino Paganini (c. 1450-1538). This border was probably designed and 
printed in his shop in a monastery on Isola del Garda. Block initials 
are also by Paganini, using the same kind of arabesque design. Since 
the letter “W” does not exist in Latin or Italian, The Poet’s Press 
designed its own letter “W” to complete the available alphabet. 

Other historical ornamental borders in this book are from Renais¬ 
sance French printers. 

The cumulative effect of this mixture of type, initials and borders 
is to simulate the production of a letterpress shop, whose compositor 
might employ, according to his own sense of balance and proportion, 
whatever materials were at hand, in this case spanning more than 400 
years of printing history. 


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